Mitchell Hashimoto

Automation Obsessed

June 6, 2013

Someone asked me recently to share some previous work I had done. As I looked back at my personal history, and reflected on what I've done successfully, it was clear to me that I'm definitely working on things I'm meant to be working on. Automation has been my passion since the very beginning.

I started programming because I wanted to cheat Neopets. I played Neopets daily, and I was frustrated that I would do the same things daily for hours for the same measly amount of Neopoints (the virtual currency used by Neopets). I learned Visual Basic with the goal of writing a program to do these tasks for me. I succeeded at this, and was soon making my measly amount of Neopoints without any human interaction.

I found more things to automate, realizing that computers can do tasks much more efficiently than humans, thus unlocking opportunities that didn't exist before. I was soon able to generate millions of Neopoints every hour from arbitraging Neopian markets. On average, someone making a few thousand an hour would be impressive, so I was doing quite well, virtually. At this point, I wasn't particularly interested in Neopets anymore. The automation had taken hold within me, and I was just seeing how far I could push it.

After becoming bored of Neopets, my interest turned to seeing if I could automate things to make real money. I began writing Windows applications that faked ad clicks, played online games that paid real money, etc. This proved to be very lucrative, though the legal notices my parents received quickly ended this phase of my life. Despite the negative outcome, I loved making computers do things for me that were previously manual tasks.

As I began college, I noticed that the poor technical design of the registration system made it incredibly difficult to get the set of classes I wanted. I developed automated registration software that would detect open slots in the full courses, and notify me via text message. While my friends were spending hours every day refreshing course schedules hoping to get into a full class, I was just waiting for a text message. And I always got into the classes, because a human refreshing a browser can't beat my software that was checking thousands of times per hour. Automation wins again.

Then, in my third year of college, I built Vagrant. The idea that I could automate the actual creation and control of virtual machines struck me in a way I can't describe. Once the idea hit, I was obsessed. I had to see what I could do, what boundaries I could push, what opportunities existed. The success of Vagrant is proof that automation in this space vastly improved the working lives of many people.

After college, I spent two years working at Kiip. At Kiip, I automated their entire infrastructure. At one point, I accidentally locked myself out of our entire production cluster (whoops, never made that mistake again). I rebuilt the entire production cluster from scratch in less than 30 minutes, and switched to the new cluster with no perceivable downtime. The production cluster was over 50 machines. My obsession with automation reached a point where if I had to do anything twice, I would write a program to do it for me.

Recently, I started HashiCorp. And while it isn't publicly clear what I'm up to yet, and I'm not quite ready to talk about everything I'm up to, you can be sure of one thing: I'm busy automating. More specifically, I'm developing software to automate everything, and giving it to you.

This should come as no surprise. Automation defines who I am, and always has.